High Country News

For tribes, by tribes

IN 2016, THE STANDING ROCK Sioux and flocks of their allies protested the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would carry Bakken crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois, crossing underneath Lake Oahe, the reservation’s water source. Tribal members opposed the pipeline over fears of water pollution and climate impacts; it also crossed their ancestral lands, and they argued that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had not adequately surveyed the burial grounds in its path. But because the pipeline wasn’t on tribal lands or under tribal jurisdiction, there were few legal options. As Indian law attorneys Hillary Hoffmann and Monte Mills write in their new book, A Third, after almost 200 years of treaties, court cases and federal infringement, “The tribe had lost almost every source of legal authority to regulate or stop it.” The pipeline was ultimately constructed, though its legality is still in court over potential environmental violations.

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